Aimee Focaraccio boarded the Norwegian Gem on January 9 for her 10-day anniversary cruise from New York. But the celebration ended Thursday when Norwegian informed passengers that the cruise would be canceled due to COVID-19-related issues. On Friday evening, Focaraccio learned that she had been staring at sea for several days with no early return, even though the cruise had been cancelled.
Focaraccio, who had spent the day in St. Maarten on Friday, sent USA TODAY a recording of an onboard announcement.
“We will arrive on schedule on the 19th in the morning,” a voice on the recording says, indicating that bad weather is expected in the coming days.
“Without the islands and ports to break the sea days, this is going to be a nightmare. I really can’t imagine four days at sea in a row without doing much,” Focaraccio told USA TODAY. She noted earlier in the day that the ship had already chosen to skip port calls in Grand Turk, St Thomas and Tortola before arriving in St Maarten and before the cruise line made the decision to cancel.
Christine Da Silva, senior vice president of branding and communications for Norwegian Cruise Line, told USA TODAY in a statement earlier on Friday that the ship would stay overnight in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, and return to its port of origin, New York,” soon .”
At the time, she had no estimate of when the ship would return to New York.
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“As we continue to navigate the fluid public health environment and focus on delivering a safe experience for everyone on board, we made the difficult decision today to cancel Norwegian Gem’s current Caribbean sailing tour due to COVID-related circumstances,” said Da Silva.
Early Friday evening, when asked if the ship would return to New York as scheduled but would spend the remaining days at sea, the cruise line said there were no updates on its estimated return.
Although the departure was canceled due to “COVID-related circumstances,” according to the cruise line, Focaraccio said she is not aware of any official announcement regarding matters on board.
When she learned that the Gem would not return to New York sooner from its canceled sailing, Focaraccio expressed even more frustration. Initially, she had mixed feelings about the cancellation and was grateful for the compensation the shipping company offered.
“This changes all that,” she said. “To have 4 full extra days at sea is extremely disturbing. Tomorrow is really the only beautiful day to enjoy the outdoors and then we’re indoors. With limited shows, small crowds and nothing to do I’m upset.”
Anthony Bivona, who identifies himself as a frequent Norwegian cruiser, told USA TODAY that his experience on the Gem was a positive one, despite cancellations.
“They did NOT meet my expectations,” he said in an email, complimenting the ship’s staff.
When the port visits were cancelled, Bivona said he was only slightly disappointed, but he knew the risks.
“We all knew when we booked during such difficult times due to COVID that there would most likely be changes to our itinerary,” he said, noting that he was surprised and pleased with the compensation the cruise line offered for the inconvenience. “It wasn’t the exact itinerary we signed up for, but it was still an absolutely amazing cruise.”
Passengers on the canceled Gem crossing will receive a full refund in their original form of payment (or in cruise credit if a passenger so paid for the cruise), plus an additional cruise credit equal to 50% of the fare for this sailing sailing by 31 December May 2023 can be applied to a future cruise.
“This was kind of the cruise from hell,” Focaraccio said. “Not that we didn’t make the most of it, but the uncertainty was frustrating. I’m a frequent cruiser and shareholder, so I’ll rebook, but I’ll definitely wait a little longer.”
Norwegian has canceled sailings on several ships this week and last week. With the Gem sailing canceled, Norwegian has canceled sailings on 12 ships in total due to the current COVID-19 wave – meaning the majority of ships in the Norwegian fleet have experienced cancellations.
And Norwegian isn’t the only shipping company canceling sailings. Royal Caribbean International also canceled some sailings last week.
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